A car approached a winding, lonely, overshadowed country lane. Soon the car was where the driver wanted to be and that was parked alongside the tall iron fence of the rectory that stood a little way beyond. The building was just a black shape in the moonlight, as if it had been carved out of night and pulled forward to give it form.
Tom Peatfield got out of his car then stood before the tall iron fence. They were the old fashioned type: thick railings shaped like spears. Behind the fence stood long uncut rose trees, their thick finger-branches twisted and gnarled with great age. In the centre of the fence there were two tall pillars and in between stood a huge iron gate, blackened-rusted with age.
There were no other houses nearby and Tom was pleased about that because tonight he wanted to investigate the rectory in quiet. He wanted to be alone because this place was reputed to be haunted and tonight he wanted to see a ghost. Tonight was just right, and what a night it was: the moon was full and blazing light out everywhere. It was an August night and the last chirps and tired sounds of birds came from the treetops.
Tom quickly stepped to the back of the car and opened the trunk. An inside light lit up a zipped-up leather bag. He lifted up the bag out of the back and rest it on the ground, then picked up a torch and pushed it into his open-jacket pocket. He shut the bonnet, locked it then picked up the bag then stepped to the gate.
A harsh grating sound disturbed the still as Tom pushed the gate open and only when it was open did the sound cease. A path led through the overgrown garden of wild roses and Tom stepped carefully forward trying to avoid getting entangled in the wild growths. Soon the door of the rectory stood before him. The weather had stained it terribly over the years but it was made of solid oak and had long ago outpaced the test of time.
The rectory was large and had stood for over a hundred years. It had served the derelict church standing a long way back opposite on the other side of the road. For eight years the rectory had stood empty and all Tom expected to find inside was the result of time's free reign upon the place, and hopefully the ghostly nun that supposedly walks the place.
For a long time Tom had been a ghost hunter on and off. He was not a ghost hunter by profession, he was a painter and decorator by trade and ghost hunting was a hobby he had taken up, but a hobby he took seriously. Over the years he had investigated other haunted houses and he had not seen anything, not a murmur of a ghost. He had worked with other psychic investigators who claimed they had seen a ghost, or even more than one, and he had not and that had been that. So tonight he thought he would give it a go. He had heard about the rectory and did some checking up on the old place.
Over the years various members of the clergy and their families had occupied the rectory. Strange things that happened in the rectory when it was occupied: banging doors and footsteps being heard and a strange presence felt. A ghostly nun had reputedly been seen on numerous occasions over the years and she was supposed to walk in the rectory the night of Aug 28th, and this was tonight.
The rectory had acquired a haunted house reputation almost as soon as it had become occupied in 1883. According to legend a monastery had once occupied the site where the rectory stood. A monk, attempting to elope with a nun from a nearby nunnery, had been hanged and the nun bricked up alive. On this night of the year her ghost was supposed to appear in the rectory. In the past, psychic investigators had done their work and an author had written a little about the rectory but it was as if the ghost hunters had exorcised the house of spirits, for since that time no ghostly nun had popped up to attract the ghost hunter into her realm, except Tom now.
Tom gripped a large metal doorknob and it failed to turn but when he pushed on the door it opened swiftly and he stood there looking into the blackness of the place. He took out his torch and switched it on. The light shone up a stairway and a passage entered deep into the place and it was there Tom stepped to. With the torch beam cutting into the darkness, like a laser beam, he stepped down the passage. On his left was a closed door and he opened it, the hinges creaking like tired bones amplified, and he stepped through.
Moonlight shone through a large window and lit up the room. Tom lay his bag down and switched off the torch. The ceiling was very high and cobwebbed-dusty bookshelves stood empty. The room had obviously once been the library and Tom decided there and then he would unpack his bag and begin his night vigil here.
Tom had brought all his 'tools of the trade' as he liked to call them. Sensor switches, infrared film, camera etc. He didn't really need them tonight because all he wanted was to see a ghost for himself to look at. He was not bothered about getting 'it' on film or on tape or that the temperature had dropped etc, all he wanted was to see a ghost.
Tom sat himself down on the floor and picked up a flask and soon was filling a plastic cup with hot coffee. The moonlight was streaming down through the window and night was almost day. Tom looked all around the room and thought how peaceful everything was. There was nothing but stillness and it was so relaxing that he just sat there supping his coffee and taking it all in. He had been sat there for about twenty minutes when he decided he would try upstairs. The only chance he had of seeing a ghost was to just wait and see what happens.
'Is there anybody there?' he asked himself softly and with a faint smile on his lips.
He listened and heard nothing and silence said that.
Tom stepped out of the room and in the passage he switched on the torch. He slowly stepped up the stairs, expecting a creak from underfoot to come to his ears, but they were solidly built and withheld sound from him. When he was at the top of the stairs moonlight entered within through a high windows, enabling him to see clearly without the aid of the torch. Tom did a search of the upstairs room and discovered nothing out of the ordinary. He selected one room and waited to see if something would happen.
Tom heard the cry of a tawny owl somewhere near then silence fell, and the more he stood there in the room of the house, the more oppressive the silence felt. What had obviously once been a bedroom was an open dust-filled space swamped in moonlight and Tom's shadow stretched long across the floor as if it was a ghostly shadow itself.
After thirty minutes nothing had happened at all, only that Tom got a bad case of cramp in his left leg. As he stepped out of the room he felt like giving up the ghost. He knew that encounters with the supernatural occurred when the least you expect it and to go looking for a ghost was like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack.
Tom looked at his watch and the luminous dial showed it was 12.32am. He decided to have a bite to eat and when he stepped downstairs he kept glancing here and there, just in case he missed something.
Tom was aged 56, had been married, no children, then divorced. Life was alright for him. He still kept in touch with Mary, who he had been married to for twenty-two years. It was simply living better apart and yet remaining friends and divorce was just a legal word.
Tom had always believed in life after death, the spirit world. There was too much proof to doubt otherwise, except that he hadn't been given any. Great people and ordinary folk had seen a ghost and 'There is something definitely there' often sprang to mind.
'I'd just like to see a ghost,' Tom said a little loud as if to let the invisible occupants in the rectory hear him say it. 'Just one little look will do me fine,' he said softly and with a little smile on his face added, 'so come on down you guys or lassie as the case may be.'
Tom listened expecting the response he got:
Tom put his plastic lunch box back in the bag and screwed the cup onto the top of the flask then stood up, straightening himself stiffly. He rubbed his stomach which was a little on the large side then stretched out a slight stiffness in his back. It was then he decided he would have a quick look outside the back and get some fresh air.
He stepped out of the room, down the passage then to the back door that was open and hanging on rusted hinges. The whole garden was overgrown and what had once been a lawn was now almost a jungle. The garden was lit up by moonlight and in the distance an orchard looked like a painting of wild silhouetted forms.
It was there and then Tom decided he would call it a night and after all the years he had been a ghost hunter he realized it was time to call it a day. He had other interests and hobbies, gardening being one of them that occupied a lot of his free time and gave him a lot of pleasure. Even so, he had to admit to himself he felt disappointed that he had not seen a ghost after all these years.
He was just stepping back into the rectory when he caught sight of a ghostly nun-like figure gliding slowly across the lawn to the orchard. When she was before the orchard she stopped, then turned and looked at Tom and from a lovely face came an equally lovely smile, then she vanished.